This welcomed development occurred at the end of last week. First, on Thursday, Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe presented remarks specifically citing Pastor Saeed’s case to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva – the same venue where the U.S. government failed to specifically address Pastor Saeed’s plight at a meeting earlier this month.
The statement provided, “We repeat our call for the Government of Iran to release Mr. Abedini, and others who are unjustly imprisoned, and to cease immediately its persecution of all religious minority communities.”
Then on Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry made the boldest U.S. statement to date, demanding Iran release Pastor Saeed and allow him to obtain the medical treatment he so desperately needs.
Secretary Kerry stated:
“I am deeply concerned about the fate of U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for nearly six months and was sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. I am disturbed by reports that Mr. Abedini has suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison, and that his condition has become increasingly dire. Such mistreatment violates international norms as well as Iran’s own laws.
“I am also troubled by the lack of due process in Mr. Abedini’s case and Iran’s continued refusal to allow consular access by Swiss authorities, the U.S. protecting power in Iran. I welcome reports that Mr. Abedini was examined by a physician and expect Iranian authorities to honor their commitment to allow Mr. Abedini to receive treatment for these injuries from a specialist outside the prison. The best outcome for Mr. Abedini is that he be immediately released.”
These statements did not come easily. It took a congressional hearing – which the State Department did not attend – increasing pressure from Congress and the media, meetings with the State Department, and more than 500,000 signatures on our petition calling for Pastor Saeed’s release.
We are encouraged by Secretary Kerry’s personal engagement in this case and are eager to work more closely with the State Department as we urge other nations to pressure Iran for Pastor Saeed’s release.
Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, who recently testified in a congressional hearing asking for Secretary Kerry’s direct involvement, responded:
“I am very encouraged by Secretary Kerry’s statement demanding Saeed’s immediate release. I am very happy to read that although Secretary Kerry has asked for medical treatment for Saeed, he does not stop there, and states that the best outcome is Saeed’s immediate release. I hope to see more proactive actions from our government. Saeed and I are both proud to be Americans. I am hopeful that this will put more pressure on the Iranian government to act and free Saeed so he can return to our family in the United States.”